Catholic Dictionary




Between 1232 and 1300 the first church was built by the Franciscans as a friars' mausoleum and modeled after St. Mark's in Venice. It is Romanesque in style, but many of the side chapels show Gothic influence. Six domes crown the exterior with two bell towers and two minarets. The inside is severely plain, with hundreds of tombs of military men and over sixty representations of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Within the present basilica is a statue of Our Lady in the ancient chapel that encloses her, all that is left of the ancient church of Santa Maria given to St. Anthony in 1229. Here the saint said Mass, prayed, and heard confessions. Near the Blessed Sacrament chapel is the simple oratory of the great Franciscan preacher, finished at the turn of the sixteenth century, to which many Venetian artists contributed their skill. The back wall and side panels depict in marble nine events in St. Anthony's life. The tomb of the great Paduan is in the center. To the left of the main altar is a huge bronze candlestick considered the most magnificent candelabrum in the world. Donatello's famed Crucifixion group in bronze surmounts the altar itself. Besides the tomb of St. Anthony, the most precious relic of the saint honored in the basilica is his tongue, preserved in a richly embellished reliquary.